At a time when just under half the British electorate is coming to terms with a referendum result that they did not vote for, the country as a whole has been plunged into uncertainty, whilst the government formulates our EU exit strategy. As businesses start to piece together what a Great Britain outside the EU might look like, how can we refocus and come out stronger as businesses and, more importantly, as individuals?
Businesses will (or at least should) have been planning for the potential consequences of a Brexit result for some time. Internal risk functions will have been working with the various parts of the business to mitigate the possible impact of, what most businesses perceived to be, an adverse result within the sector(s) they operate in.
As a business, it is crucial to avoid a self fulfilling prophecy driven by denial, anger or depression which will directly impact productivity (and profits), and as quickly as possible move on to acceptance; and with it, a plan of action to adapt to the changing political and financial landscape. Strong leadership is key, as employees (whether they voted to leave or remain) will be looking for reassurance that everything will be ok. It may be impossible, at this early stage, to provide a guarantee that there won’t be any job cuts or that future pay rises won’t be affected. However, demonstrating strong, positive leadership in uncertain times, will ensure that your business weathers the storm better than most – you don’t have to have all the answers; no one expects you to.
But what if, as a leader, you are stuck in a perpetual cycle of denial, anger or depression on the change curve? How can you be a tower of strength when you are caught in a viscous cycle of anger and worry? It’s fair to say that the majority of individuals who voted to remain won’t necessarily have been preparing themselves for the end result and even those who voted to leave may not have fully appreciated the possible impact it might have on them personally. So what can you do to break the vicious cycle to enable you (and your business) to accept the result and start planning on how to make the best of, what you had originally anticipated would be, a bad situation?
A resilient person, like a resilient business, is someone who is able to bounce back from adverse shocks and who is able to adapt to better cope with ongoing stresses. Whilst the initial shock of the results is still being felt around the world, it is fair to say that the ongoing uncertainty around the ramifications of Brexit could potentially rumble on for years to come, adding to the stresses that people (and businesses) might feel on a day to day basis.
Whilst some people appear to be better able to bounce back from set-backs and are perceived to be more resilient than others, there are a number of things you can do to boost your own resilience. Firstly, it is important to be self-aware and understand where you are on the Kubler-Ross change curve (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). If you do find yourself struggling to reach acceptance, it is vitally important to focus on what you can control and what you can’t. Let go of aspects which are outside your sphere of influence and focus on those things that you can control. Brexit won’t happen over night and the situation will constantly evolve, as we get closer to reaching a final deal. You (and your business) will need to be poised to deal with a variety of possible different scenarios resulting from the Brexit negotiations. Far better to do that from a position of strength than to be stuck in a rut. If you’re on the front foot, you’ll be better able to adapt to the change ahead.
It is widely accepted that happy people are generally more resilient and therefore a positive mental attitude is crucial. Boosting your wellbeing will likely boost your resilience. Therefore, take a step back and take a closer look at the five essential elements (identified by Gallup) that influence your wellbeing: Career; Social; Physical; Financial; Community. All five elements, to a greater or lesser extent, influence your overall levels of happiness and will therefore impact on your ability to be resilient when faced with adversity.
Having a good support network of colleagues, friends and family will be fundamental to your community and social wellbeing. Mixing with people with positive ideas will invariably have a positive influence on your own mind-set. Ensuring you have constants to fall back onto when everything around you seems to be spinning uncontrollably, whether that be your community, your career or your finances. You may choose, for example, to adjust your spending habits to enable you to put a little more to one side each month. The other important constant, which I cannot endorse highly enough in times of uncertainty, is exercise and relaxation. I love to run and it provides me with a great outlet to sift through concerns, challenges and come up with solutions. It’s also a great way to unwind. I also like to practise mindfulness. Whilst I am not as diligent as I could be, I try and practise as often as I can. It certainly enables me to remain focussed on the here and now, rather than being distracted by the past or what the future may hold, promoting better decision making, which is rational and well thought through. As a resilience tool, I find exercise and mindfulness priceless.
If you are looking to build a more resilient business, why not start with your biggest asset: your people. Studies have consistently shown that organisations with higher levels of employee wellbeing outperform those with lower levels of wellbeing through economic downturns (and during good times too). Most recently, a US study showed that those organisations that provided award winning health and wellbeing initiatives to employees, outperformed rival organisations on the S&P 500 three fold over a period of 14 years. You can check out the paper here.
If you’d like to find out more on how wellbeing can influence positive change across your organisation, whether through resilience training, wellbeing workshops or annual wellbeing programmes, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0207 993 4402.